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September 29, 2009

Yelp vs. YouTube: A Ratings Showdown

YouTube caused a little stir recently when the company posted a graph on its blog showing the distribution of user ratings of videos on the site. Like Yelp, YouTube offers a five-star rating system, with five being the highest. As you can see on the graph, YouTube users gave one star to a few videos, and five stars to virtually all the rest. Very few got anything in between; folks either hate or love YouTube videos, and mostly love 'em. Which raised an important question for the folks at YouTube: how useful is a rating system if most videos get the highest score?

Some people seem to think that online reviews are exactly that, only rants or raves, resulting in consumer websites comprised solely of ratings on the extremes. Which, we agree, wouldn't be very helpful.

But we see something entirely different here on Yelp. To date Yelpers have written more than seven million reviews and the star ratings are spread across the board.

Looking at the chart you'll find that 85% of all reviews are neutral to positive. Yelpers, being the passionate local consumers that they are, use the site much like a blog. They are reviewing their day to day experiences with local businesses and the distribution is a direct reflection of that. More often than not we are patronizing three and four-star businesses. Think back: how many one-star experiences have you had this month?

Sure there is the occasional Yelper who has all one-star reviews. But as a reader when you look at that profile you have to step back and wonder "either this person is a complete Debbie Downer, or they were kicking puppies in a previous life and have some serious bad karma when it comes to choosing local businesses." You make the call.

Yelp offers not just lots of reviews, but lots of varied experiences from which to choose. Isn't diversity great?!